The days of smart, quality sitcoms like Frasier and Seinfeld are long gone, and I often find myself stunned at how bad CBS sitcoms --like 2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men, and The Big Bang Theory-- can somehow pull in 10 and 20 million viewers each week. In the case of How I Met Your Mother, the answer is simple: Britney Spears.
In a new interview about the end of the long-running series with staff from 20th Century Fox TV --the company that produces HWIYM-- Spears' season 3 guest spot is credited with giving the then-struggling show the momentum that ended up turning it into a bona fide hit by season 4.
“We had been pushing for stunt casting opportunities, anything to get more viewers to sample the show,” 20th TV chairman and CEO Gary Newman said. The studio’s casting executive Stepahnie Herman pitched the idea of Britney Spears, at the time the hottest tabloid celebrity who was trying to get her life back together following her epic meltdown. Herman was friendly with her manager and reached out. It turned out that Spears was a fan of HIMYM and was interested in a guest star role on it. The filming of the episode was a spectacle, with helicopters buzzing overhead and throngs of paparazzi at the studio’s barricaded gates for a glimpse of the troubled star.
Whether it was the massive publicity surrounding Spears’ stint on the show or the new time slot or both, HIMYM returned from a three-month break with a season high in 18-49. The following week, the episode featuring Spears set a series high in 18-39 (4.5) and a season high in total viewers (10.8 million) “Ratings exploded, and the show never looked back, going onto a long and successful run on CBS and in syndication,” Newman said.
Gotta admit, we kind of miss the days when anything and everything Britney-related caused mass hysteria and dominated the media with ten times the force of Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and Kim Kardashian combined. Who else but Britney at her post-Blackout comeback peak could turn an ailing show into a sudden smash with just one hammy guest spot?